Written by Paul Monopoli
Super Mario Brothers 2. When I say it today 2 games might enter your mind: Super Mario USA & The Lost Levels. Mario USA obviously being the game released in the Western world as SMB2 & The Lost Levels being the Japanese SMB2. Most Western gamers were introduced to the Japanese SMB2 via the Mario All Stars collection that was released on the Super Nintendo in 1993. In the Western world opinions were always divided over SMB2, but the knowledge that we didn’t even get what has been since referred to as the REAL SMB2 did not help matters.
My question is, why the hate over Super Mario USA?
Firstly, the gameplay is very different from the other games in the series. Jumping on an enemy no longer kills them, you pick up vegetables from the ground, you have flying carpet levels, & Bowser isn’t even in it. It’s just not Mario to a lot of people. By now almost everyone knows the game was a modification of a Japanese game called Yumi Kojo: Doki Doki Panic which explains why the game is so different.
The main theory behind the reason why we got such a different game instead of the Lost Levels is because the Lost Levels is a VERY difficult game. Infact it was said to be too difficult for Western gamers. Was this the only reason though? I believe there may be more to it than that, but be aware that this is only my opinion. I could be way off in my assumption, but to me the following argumemt makes sense & has been rumoured to be one of the reasons for the differing releases. Let’s have a look at this lesser known theory which is often written off by members of the gaming community as ridiculous.
To put it simply I believe the game is too similar to the first. Well, not even too similar, the Lost Levels basically is the original Super Mario Bros with new levels. It’s like someone at Nintendo played around with a level design kit & this is the end result. Sure there are a few differences in gameplay, Luigi now jumps higher than Mario, there are poisonous mushrooms & a few other changes. Is it enough though?
Who remembers Boulderdash? A lot of people have fond memories of the game, you play the little ant (dubbed Rockford on some ports) & dig your way to the diamonds avoiding boulders. On the Amstrad CPC several Boulderdash games were released, & while the original game was rated very highly, this was not true of later games in the series. For the record only the first few of those games were official, the rest being designed independently with the Boulderdash Construction Kit. The problem was that every single one of those games played exactly the same as the others. Sure there were a few minor cosmetic differences, but did you really need to buy the same game so many times?
So let’s look at it from a Mario point of view. Would a Mario “construction kit” designed sequel have been accepted by the gaming community at the time? Let’s look at other Nintendo games of that era: the first 2 Zelda games were completely different to each other. One was an overhead quest style game & the second was more of a platformer. On the other hand the second Bomberman game was widely criticised for being too similar to the first. My theory is that Mario could potentially have suffered the same fate which could have seriously affected his popularity. Remember, this is Nintendo’s mascot, the figurehead for the company. If Mario had a game that received negative reviews this early in the piece he could very well be sitting on the sidelines with Alex Kidd while Nintendo ran with a new mascot.
Let’s take a look at Alex Kidd for a second. Miracle World was a brilliant game that received excellent reviews at the time. Most of the sequels on the other hand were absolute flops. The series was redeemed with Alex Kidd in Shinobi World which received a decent score from C+VG magazine which was one of the main authorities on gaming at the time. The problem was there were 4 crap games inbetween Miracle World & Shinobi World. It really didn’t help that Sega’s new console the Megadrive/Genesis received the horrible “Enchanted Castle”. Compare this to Super Mario World which still is in my opinion the finest game ever. Both mascots laid their 16-bit cards on the table & Mario won. Alex Kidd got replaced by Sonic & it was all over.
If Mario the Lost Levels had been released as SMB2 in the Western world would this outcome have been the same? Sure, Mario 3 was a great game, but might it have been too little too late? Now I’m not saying the Lost Levels is a bad game, that’s a matter of opinion. You could argue that in Japan Mario was still successful there inspite of the first & second games being so similar. At the time Japanese audiences were a very different breed of gamer to their Western counterparts. Sure, this has changed in recent years & the Internet has certainly helped gamers from all over the world experience games they may not have had access to in the day. I could use other examples to back up my argument, but ultimately it’s a question we may never know the real answer to. The argument however will carry on for years to come.
In summary I believe Nintendo America took the best course of action by making the second game a very different beast from the first.
Today when looking at the Mario games you have 3 options:
Accept the Lost Levels as Super Mario Bros 2
Accept Super Mario USA as Super Mario Bros 2
Accept both games & place them between Super Mario Bros 1 & 3
Ultimately it’s up to you.
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